Bridging friendships Across the Belief Dinide.

Author:Comer, Gary

POLARIZATION--some say it is the new normal, but is there a silver lining in countering this whole notion by learning how to better embrace a wider range of friendships with people who do not believe the way we do? With belief differences on display, every day with politics and media, in a culture that feels more divided than ever, I submit that is far more significant than brushing up on a few civility lessons. What we really need is to define the skills for befriending those on the other side of our beliefs, whether the other street, aisle, fence, or faith.

This issue is rampant in the church, where I write and speak as a mission specialist. Having relationships with people of differing belief systems is critical to fulfilling the mandate of Jesus Christ according to the Bible. With greater pluralism of faiths and widely varying points of view in our culture, the importance of building across-belief friendships rises sharply.

Having talked with and trained Christians in various parts of the country, I have discovered that most members of today's church are ill-equipped for the world that has crashed in upon them. That perspective applies quite broadly.

I recently counseled several families in crisis over sexual-orientation revelations from their children or their offspring's sudden departure from the church. (Only one in five millennials believe church attendance is important.) Each set of parents was struggling to know how to respond wisely.

On relating with those outside of Christian beliefs, according to the large multi-denominational survey of Christ Together, 73% of Christians have no "effectual" faith-sharing relationships. They do not know how to respond or perhaps the better word is engage.

Has there ever been a time when we needed to learn how to cross the belief divides more than now? It is not hard to envision the unity and good resulting in our communities and workplaces if we develop a skill set potent enough to form friendships with people who may not agree with our belief stances in the cultural, political, or ecclesiastical realms.

More is at stake here than we think, as imparting what we believe matters in relationships. What we hold to and feel strongly about should not be avoided and swept under the rug, since our convictions--the truths we hold dearly--reflect so much of who we see ourselves to be. If you cannot talk about your beliefs in a healthy way, you will lack the intimacy of being able to share what you really think and feel about yourself, and life in general. Having the skills to discuss your beliefs is an essential tool of being authentic. It helps others to know and understand you. It also enables you to learn from others'...

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